Consumers rely online reviews to help choose everything from restaurants to doctors. Scammers know this and can make money selling or trading phony reviews. Before relying on an online review, look out for some red flags:
- The business has multiple reviews on Yelp removed for violating Yelp’s terms of service.
- Negative reviews are followed by 5-star reviews. Some businesses try to bury legitimate negative reviews; often they will contradict the specific criticisms in the negative review.
- The business has an abnormal number of positive reviews in a short period of time.
You can also detect possible fake reviews by looking at the reviewer’s profile. For example, be skeptical of profiles that:
- Review businesses across a wide geographic area.
- Have only written positive reviews.
- Use a stock image or celebrity photo.
- Show inconsistencies – for example, claiming to have small children in one review but to be retired in another.
- The profile is locked on Google so you cannot see the profile’s other review activity.
If you believe you’ve come across a fake online review, please report it to the District Attorney’s Office’s Consumer Protection Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.